School Decision Makers Deserve Facts about School Buses

April 10, 2018

By Ryan Zic

Sponsored by: ROUSCH CleanTech

ACT News - ROUSH CleanTech

The decisions school district officials make in terms of selecting school buses have a profound effect on many critical issues: students’ well-being, taxpayer-supported district budgets, staffing and personnel, and even the quality of air that people in a community breathe. With so much at stake, officials deserve thorough, evidence-based information when making important choices.

In terms of student well-being, propane autogas-fueled school buses operate quietly, so bus drivers can hear better at loading zones and concentrate on driving conditions. Students waiting near idling Blue Bird Vision Propane buses, for example, benefit from the fact that those school buses produce the lowest level of nitrogen oxide (NOx) of any

With students’ well-being, budgets and air quality at stake, school officials deserve thorough, evidence-based information when making important choices regarding school buses.

school bus on the market. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that children exposed to NOx exhaust can suffer from asthma, headaches and fatigue.

Budget Relief

In addition to keeping children safe, school districts must stretch tight budgets in today’s economy. Propane autogas school buses save schools money in myriad ways. Here are a few examples:

  • Historically, propane is about 50 percent lower cost than diesel at the pump. Also, most school districts sign a propane fuel contract with their local marketer and pay less than half the retail cost for the fuel.
  • The cleaner operation of propane engines means schools don’t need to purchase the range of expensive parts required for “clean diesel” engines. Without more than 20 ancillary devices, diesel engines wouldn’t be able to meet EPA emission standards.
  • A propane oil change takes seven quarts of oil: A diesel engine oil change requires 17-36 quarts of oil.
  • A diesel oil filter itself costs two to three times more than a gasoline or propane autogas oil filter.
  • With the lowest cost of infrastructure of all transportation fuels, it costs far less to build a propane fueling station than any other station type.

More than 800 school districts are saving 20 to 50 percent on a cost per mile basis for fuel and maintenance by operating propane autogas buses compared to diesel. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that school bus fleets have saved between $400 and $3,000 per propane bus per year when compared to diesel buses.

The Environmental Protection Agency reports that children exposed to NOx exhaust can suffer from asthma, headaches and fatigue.

Decisions districts make on buses affect personnel and work hours, too. Propane autogas school buses are simple and easy to maintain. The same diagnostics used with other commercial vehicles are readily available to district transportation staff to help detect issues. No additional parts — or the steep learning curves that come with them — are required to meet emissions standards. Propane school buses have no cold-start issues, saving school transportation departments both time and money.

Breathing Easy

The effects of school bus decisions ripple out into the communities those buses serve, another reason why districts need fully sourced evidence to make informed decisions. According to a University of California Riverside study, diesel-fueled medium- and heavy-duty vehicles are the number one source of NOx emissions in almost every single metropolitan region in the US. Clearly, higher air quality depends on lowering emissions.

School buses fueled by propane emit fewer nitrogen oxides and virtually eliminate particulate matter when compared to diesel. Propane has the lowest on-site emission rate of the major energy sources, with the exception of natural gas.

The U.S. Department of Energy reports that school bus fleets have saved between $400 and $3,000 per propane bus per year when compared to diesel buses.

The Department of Energy notes that a propane vehicle can reduce lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent and reduce lifecycle petroleum use by 99 percent when that propane is derived from natural gas processing. The Riverside study shows that a diesel engine can emit up to four times more NOx than its EPA emissions standard during a full-duty cycle. Four Blue Bird Vision Propane school buses emit less NOx than one diesel school bus certified at the current standard. Twenty-four of these propane school buses emit less NOx than one diesel school bus manufactured between 2007 and 2010. Propane autogas school buses better protect children and communities from environmental and health issues.

High Stakes

For school districts, choosing school buses is a weighty and nuanced decision — not one to be made based on misinformation. As an industry, our mission should be to provide comprehensive facts for school officials charged with making carefully considered choices that affect budgets and environmental issues.